How To Fill Your Taco Bell Spicy Tostada Void

Taco Bell tostada with sour cream
Taco Bell tostada with sour cream - Taco Bell / Instagram

When Taco Bell first opened in the mid-1960s, the menu was short, sweet, and cheap: five items, all selling for 19 cents, including tacos, beans and cheese, burritos, chili burgers, and tostadas. While the first three remain on the menu, the fourth one has melted away into the mists of time. As for the fifth, after undergoing a slight spelling change at some point, tostadas remained on the menu until 2020, at which point they vanished along with a number of other items. While Taco Bell has since brought back the Mexican pizza to great acclaim, their only move towards reviving the tostada consisted of a one-off extremely limited offering of one made with a giant Cheez-It base.

Well, there's no point in crying over spilled salsa. The fact is, Taco Bell's tostada (spicy or otherwise) was never the most complex or hard-to-recreate dish, consisting of nothing more than a tostada shell with refried beans, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and red sauce. If you're still missing this item, you've actually got quite a few options to explore. Most of these alternatives are likely just as good as your former favorite, and you might find some that you prefer.

Read more: The Healthiest Fast Food Chains In The U.S.

Try Some Taco Bell Taste-Alikes

Taco Bell Mexican pizza
Taco Bell Mexican pizza - Taco Bell

Starting with Taco Bell's menu, there are quite a few items that are either tostada-adjacent or can be made so with a little tinkering. If you order the Nachos Bellgrande without the ground beef, sour cream, and cheese sauce and add lettuce and shredded cheese, what you've got is a deconstructed tostada. With the veggie Mexican pizza, all you need to do is swap out the pizza sauce for red sauce and add some lettuce and you'll have a double-stack tostada cut into wedges.

Of course, what is a tostada but a flat crunchy taco? Unfortunately, Taco Bell doesn't offer a bean taco, but you can custom-order one with no meat and get the beans and tomatoes as an upgrade. Yes, it's beyond annoying having to pay for something you don't want (the beef) and pay again for something you do (beans), but as Taco Bell has refused to hear people's pleas to bring back the tostada, the chances of their offering an upcharge-free vegetarian crunchy taco aren't something you should bet on.

Del Taco Has Tostadas

Del Taco Crunchtada
Del Taco Crunchtada - Del Taco / Facebook

Your best bet for a Taco Bell tostada taste-alike, at least one that you can pick up with a quick swing through a drive-thru, may be the Crunchtada tostada from Del Taco. Del Taco, unfortunately, doesn't have nearly the market penetration that Taco Bell does, as at the time of writing they list just 597 locations in 18 states as compared to Taco Bell, which has about 8,000 locations and serves all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. As to which of the two restaurants is better, that's a matter of personal choice, but Del Taco is definitely winning the tostada wars since they have one and their rival does not.

The basic Crunchtada is actually quite similar to the Taco Bell one, ingredients-wise. It consists of the same crunchy corn shell (although Del Taco's, for some reason, is wavy, not flat) topped with refried beans, shredded lettuce, grated cheese, and their version of red sauce that they call salsa casera (which translates to "homemade sauce"). Unfortunately, you'll still have to pay an upcharge if you want those chopped tomatoes.

Other Mexican Restaurants May Also Have Them

bean tostada on white plate
bean tostada on white plate - Rito's Mexican Food

While Mexican-style fast food is enjoyable in its own right, indie or local Mexican restaurants also have a lot to offer, and quite a few of them feature bean tostadas on the menu. Not all of these are going to be exact dupes for Taco Bell's, however: Conejitos Place in Milwaukee makes its tostadas with añejo cheese instead of shredded cheddar. Meanwhile, SuperMex, which is a mini-chain with 10 California locations, serves its bean tostadas with a choice of sour cream or guacamole. The Mexico Cafe in San Bernardino and Temecula also goes for avocado on bean tostadas but uses sliced ones instead of the mashed kind.

At Phoenix-area chain Rito's Mexican Food, as well as Goyita's in Oro Valley, Arizona; El Matador in Denton, Texas; and La Veracruzana in Amherst, Massachusetts, all of the bean tostadas are on the plain side with nothing more than beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. Presumably, you can ask for some salsa on the side. Taco Casa, which has several locations in or around Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, Alabama, has the most Taco Bell-esque of tostadas, however: beans, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and their own red sauces that range from mild to extra-hot.

Make Your Own Tostada

tostada with beans and vegetables
tostada with beans and vegetables - Vezzani Photography/Getty Images

The easiest way to recreate Taco Bell's tostada is to do it yourself. At one time, Taco Bell even sold DIY tostada kits, although these were meant to make beef tostadas so they came with taco seasoning along with tostada shells and taco sauce. While the kits no longer appear to be available, it's easy enough to pick up any old brand of tostada shells, or you can simply take a corn tortilla and bake it until it's crunchy as we do in our easy homemade black bean tostada recipe. For a little extra flavor, you can also brush the tortillas with oil and sprinkle them with salt, chile powder, or other seasonings. (Crushed Doritos crumbs, perhaps?)

Once you've achieved your crunchy tostada shell through whatever means, spread it with refried beans -- the canned kind is fine, and the Taco Bell brand is even better, for authenticity's sake. Add some shredded cheddar, then heat the tostada until the beans are warm and the cheese melts. (You can pre-heat the beans to cut down on cooking time.) Finish things off with chopped tomatoes and sliced lettuce, then douse the whole thing with Taco Bell taco sauce. The total amount of time it'll take you to make a tostada, start to finish, is probably less than you'd have spent in the drive-thru back in the day when Taco Bell sold them, and if you miss the ambiance you can always sit in your car while you eat it.

Read the original article on Mashed